The reclusive Alex Emelianenko recently spent some time with the Russian Reporter, which describes itself as “the first socio-political magazine for active middle class in Russia” and is somewhat akin to the US publication VICE.

In the written feature there are plenty of details about Alex’s recent life which are unknown to the English-speaking West and in particular, details about the things which motivated his recent stay in a strict Greek monastery.

According to the piece, Alex has had problems with alcohol abuse – which Sergey Kharitonov accused him of last year – and that culminated in his being arrested and fined for causing a disturbance on an aircraft six months ago. It was this which apparently led to his being fired by M-1 Global publicly.

The incident occurred en route to the Siberian city of Barnaul, where he was to conduct a seminar. According to the piece, “newspapers reported that Alexander made a drunken brawl aboard a plane flying to Barnaul”. He dismisses the story as “exaggeration of journalists” but few doubt its accuracy, especially as he was fined by the police for “hooliganism.”

Worse, Alex was then said to be drunk when he arrived at the MMA school in Barnaul to stage a seminar and preside over a local sambo tournament. A video purportedly shows him to be slurring his words as he addresses the crowd on a microphone.

Alex’s fight with Jeff Monson, at a time when he was – according to himself – out of shape and suffering injury, also attracts an interesting comment from him. He says he agreed to step up in order to “Save the Jewish business.” This is a reference to M-1 Global being owned by Vadim Finkelstein, who is of Jewish extraction.

All the fallout from the ‘Barnaul Incident’ and subsequent bad feeling with Finkelstein led to Alex being fired from M-1. That in turn seems to have sparked a realization that he needed to do something to try and get hold of his life and arrest its downward spiral.

“The decision came spontaneously: it was necessary to go. I don’t have anyone to explain myself to. One afternoon comes a text message from my sister, asking ‘Are you deciding to stay there?’. I thought about it, maybe. In the end I replied ‘Just don’t tell my mother.’ I made no more responses to anyone, only went to work. When I returned the phone was bursting with missed calls.”

Alex says his time in the Greek monastery – pictures of him chopping wood, baking bread and hauling rocks were widely circulated – was an attempt to “obtain grace” and to find some understanding of himself and his life. Rising at five, he would work and pray at intervals dictated by the monks before returning to his cell to sleep.

He has a reminder of it on his chest, a new tattoo which says “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.” Alex claims he experienced growth of a spiritual kind on the trip and has now found religion in the same way his brother Fedor has.

And his alcohol problems? The reporter says Alex thinks long and hard before answering.

“The temptations are still there. They are close and continue to overcome. But I suffer and endure.”